Gotta keep ’em calibrated

During a recent trip, I had a very interesting conversation with a friend who works in telecom.  He used to work in the attractions world, so he is still one of “us”!

He told me about something they do called a calibration meeting.  He works in quality control, and during the calibration meeting, everyone who works in quality control gets together to ensure that their interpretation of the rules and standards are the same. I thought this was brilliant.

Especially for a quality control department, if the view of quality is different, you have no control! In some ways, we ALL work in the quality control department.

We may call it something else, of course.  You may be an Operations Manager, or a Retail Supervisor, or an Accounting Lead, but our goals are all the same: produce a HIGH QUALITY product.

That product could be service to an employee or guest, a tasty funnel cake or accurate accounting methods.  In any case, you are responsible for QUALITY!

So it only makes sense that your vision of quality and your team’s vision of quality be the same. Calibrated, even.

Like you have heard me talk about before, that starts with your company values and goals.  But it’s not enough to know what they are, you also have to have a shared vision of what they mean, what they look like, and how they will be enforced.

And yes, I have encouraged many individuals and companies to define their values, determine what specific, observable behaviors indicate that those values are being “lived” (or not lived) and the steps to coach or discipline as appropriate.  In a way, this is a method of calibration, but I think we can take it a step further.

What this conversation with my friend taught me is that there is also an opportunity for those in charge (us) to more deeply examine the values and calibrate OUR vision of quality based on those values.  And not just our vision, but again, how we will enforce them.

How often, during a leadership meeting, for example, do we talk specifically about our company values, especially in the context of the leadership team being on the same page regarding what they look like and how they will be enforced?  If the answer is never or not much, you have the opportunity to be a little bit better calibrated.

And why would you care? If you have ever wondered why one department “gets away” with certain things that you vigorously enforce, a lack of calibration is why. Not only is it frustrating for you, but it’s also frustrating and confusing for your employees.  They see the result of the lack of calibration (and thus, consistency), and wonder why things are not the same between departments.

A “calibrated” leadership team shares a vision of the quality product they are producing and acts consistently while either recognizing or correcting value-based behaviors.

Let’s pause. Do you think your leadership teams are calibrated?

With all this talk of calibration it can be easy to think I am advocating for an almost-robotic approach to leadership.  I am not.  Any of these calibration discussions have to balanced with compassion and judgement.  That said, I think where the calibration discussion is a true benefit is that requires your actions be justified.  If you feel that a situation warrants an approach that is outside of the agreed upon calibration, fine.  But you better be able to make your case.  And your argument should not begin with, “we’ve always done it that way…”

If you can truly explain WHY your situation is different, I am sure the leaders around you will buy in.  It’s when we have no rhyme or reason, or we are acting out of insecurity rather than compassion that our actions could be questioned… and rightly so.

If you have a set of values or guiding principles, you CAN calibrate your teams to ensure those values or principles are being adhered to. Ultimately, calibration leads to consistency, and don’t all of your guests deserve a consistently HIGH QUALITY experience?

I thought so.

Thanks for reading!


If you are trying to calibrate your own leadership skills, might I suggest joining a mastermind group? I think it’s a pretty cool program, but don’t take my word for it, here is a recent graduate talking about the experience.